‘The Revenant’ Wins Raves at First Screenings, As Leonardo DiCaprio Calls It ‘a Beautiful Blur’

The actor is picking up strong Oscar buzz, though he barely speaks in the wilderness revenge drama

Last Updated: November 24, 2015 @ 4:55 AM

Alejandro G. Inarritu’s “The Revenant,” one of the last remaining Oscar contenders to screen for voters this year, has finally had its first unveilings. They included a jammed screening for Oscar voters, the SAG nominating committee and press on Monday night in the Academy’s 1,000-seat Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Though reviews are embargoed until Dec. 4, it’s safe to say that the film is big and bold and wildly ambitious, and also so dark and brutal that it’ll undoubtedly meet with resistance from some audiences.

The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio in a role inspired by the real-life frontiersman Hugh Glass, who is mauled by a bear while on a trapping expedition and left for dead by his traveling companions. Because his character is alone and doesn’t speak for most of the film’s two-and-a-half hour running time, DiCaprio described it as “almost a silent movie performance from me” in the post-screening Q&A.

As soon as Monday’s screening ended, a barrage of 140-character reactions hit Twitter — and it’s safe to say that most people were impressed.

“Lost” creator Carlton Cuse called it “an amazing piece of filmmaking” and added, “Leo should finally win his Oscar, and Chivo [cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki] will three-peat.”

Producer Cassian Elwes, though, tweeted that the film “was so brutal I feel like I need to lie down. Beautiful camera work almost makes it worth it.”

Among the press who saw the film, there was much agreement with Cuse’s predictions of Oscars for DiCaprio and Lubezki, and lots of talk about what an overwhelming experience the epic-length film was.

Jeff Wells at Hollywood Elsewhere wrote, “‘The Revenant’ is an experience I’ve never had before … totally it’s [sic] own beast. This is not a movie for sissies. A friend often hid her eyes.”

But Rolling Stone’s David Ehrlich was less impressed: “next time it would be great if Inarritu just murdered his leading man & saved everyone some time. as banal as it it beautiful.”

In the Q&A, Inarritu described making the film as “almost like an impossible task” — and when asked about his first day on the set, DiCaprio smiled and said, “To tell you the truth, it’s all a beautiful blur to me.”

Rehearsals, they said, took months, with elaborate camera moves worked out with the actors before they ever went to the wilderness locations, many of them near Calgary, Canada. “You felt an intensity, and a unity with the whole crew that you had to grasp the entire shot every day,” said DiCaprio.

“It was a brilliantly simplistic script about a man avenging the death of his son,” he added. “We wanted to find the poetry within that.”

But the actor also admitted that it was by far the toughest movie he’d ever made, and the panel agreed that the intricate camera moves and brutal weather were the main culprits.

For a time, it was so cold in Calgary that it became difficult to work; later, the snow disappeared so quickly that the production had to move to South America to finish the shoot.

“I never knew how difficult it would be,” Inarritu said. “There were times when I thought, ‘What the hell am I doing here? I’m a tropical man from Mexico City!'”